According to the American Academy of Implant Dentistry, more 35 million individuals have missing teeth in at least one jaw due to injury or decay. Corrective measures including the use of bridges and crowns as dental implants are common, helping people have both the appearance and function of natural teeth. Dental implants are a proven method to replace missing teeth, having been used for more than three decades in adult patients. Although safe and effective, having dental implant surgery can create trepidation as individuals are unsure what to expect during and after the procedure. To help ease the mind of those facing dental implant surgery, it is beneficial to understand what takes place during the dental implant process and best practices for managing recovery after surgery.
Expectations for Surgery
For most patients, dental implant surgery is performed as an outpatient procedure performed over multiple stages, but only after a comprehensive dental exam is done and a treatment plan is recommended. Each patient has various needs and anticipated outcomes for dental implant surgery, which may require meeting with dental specialists one or more times. However, once a treatment plan is suggested and agreed upon, the first step in the dental implant procedure is the safe removal of the damaged tooth, known as extraction. As the damaged tooth is removed, the mouth is then prepared for implant surgery.
During the second stage of dental implant surgery, patients with weak jaw bones may require strengthening with bone grafting. In these cases, bone is taken from another part of the body and placed with care into the jawbone. Before having the implant and subsequent replacement tooth set, the jaw must be strong enough to support it. For some patients, a small bone graft can be done at the same time the implant is set, while others require a substantial amount of time between grafting and replacement.
After the jaw is prepared, patients undergo surgery to place the implant. This process involves cutting the gum deep enough to expose the bone, and drilling to create holes where the supporting posts of the implant will sit. Over time, the bones of the jaw unify with the supporting posts of the implant, a process that can take up to six months. Once a sturdy base is attained, the artificial tooth is placed. Patients have the option of selecting a removable implant (similar to dentures) or a fixed implant which cannot be removed. The entire dental implant process can last a few to several months, depending on the need for bone grafting and the time frame for bone growth after the base of the implant is set.
Speedy and safe recovery after each portion of a dental implant surgery is largely in the hands of the patient. Recommendations to steer clear of extremely cold or hot drinks and foods are common, along with sticking to a liquid or soft diet. Additionally, individuals may need to apply ice to the jaw or cheeks for two to three days after each procedure to ensure swelling and pain are not major issues.
After dental implant surgery, patients are often given pain medication to help subdue any discomfort caused during the procedure. Although common, pain is typically managed easily with over the counter anti-inflammatory medicines and rest. Slight bleeding is common after dental implant surgery, and so it is necessary for patients to ease this by biting down on gauze every few hours. If antibiotics are prescribed, patients should take great care to complete the entire prescription, per doctor’s orders. Maintaining a clean mouth is also crucial to the success of dental implant surgery, which can be done with hot water and salt rinses and careful use of a toothbrush and mouthwash as directed by the dentist.
Safeguarding against Risks
While dental implant surgery is both safe and effective when performed by a trained dental professional, the procedure does carry with it some risk. The most common issues that arise after surgery include the following:
· Damage to surrounding teeth, nerves or blood vessels
· Infection at the surgery site
· Pain caused by nerve damage
· Issues with sinus function
A group of dental negligence specialists with Patient Claim Line note that the majority of claims relating to dental implants are due to incorrect extractions or residual problems, like infections after removing a tooth; fortunately, claims related to dental implants are rare. Following the post-surgery care plan instructions provided by the dental surgeon is crucial in having both a safe and effective recovery after dental implants are placed.
The replacement of damaged teeth provides not only a restoration of mouth function, but also a confidence boost for patients. The stages of dental implant surgery take time to complete, and differ for each individual, but ensuring the best possible result comes down to the aftercare. Minding the recommendations of the doctor after each stage of dental implant surgery allows patients the ability to heal well, without unnecessary side effects and undue risk.